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Presentations Part 2

The three levels of communication Information is passed to your audience at three levels. In order to change their behaviour, it is important to move them to the third level... Level one - phys...

The three levels of communication

Information is passed to your audience at three levels. In order to change their behaviour, it is important to move them to the third level...

Level one - physical communication

This is the most basic form of communication in your presentation and you cannot communicate without it. Essentially it boils down to such issues as

•    can my audience hear me?

•    can my audience see the slides?

•    can my audience read any text?

Only the worst of presentations fail at this level of communication, with text that is too small or presenters that can’t be heard.

Level two - intellectual communication

At this level, audience members understand the logic and argument of your presentation.

Obviously audiences cannot achieve this level of communication without passing through the first level. This is where most presentations stop developing their presentations - with presenters not understanding how important it is to get past this level if they are to effect change in the audience’s behaviour. Consequently, most presentations, while possibly worthy and effective at the time (though not always!) have limited impact beyond the immediate room.

Generally speaking, people do not change their behaviour based upon intellectual understanding alone. If they did, smokers would not smoke and as a population we’d eat less and exercise more. To make people give up smoking (using this as an example) it is necessary to make the presentation have an emotional impact.

Level three - contextual communication

This is the level of communication which results in audience members changing their behaviour and is obviously dependent on them having passed through the first two levels of understanding.

Another term for contextual communication is ‘emotional understanding’. This is the point where your audience really can be said to ‘get it’ and your presentation has an impact upon them at an emotional level. This is the point where they are ready and able to change their behaviour: simply understanding something isn’t sufficient - there has to be an emotional buy in to that understanding.

As a rather contrived example, suppose your audience understands that behaviour X will probably mean they go to prison. Nothing is likely to change unless they also have an emotional response to the concept of going to prison as a ‘bad thing’.

The best way to get your audience to the third level of communication is to use stories...

Remembering what to say

In the heat of the moment, during the presentation, it is often difficult to remember everything you need to say. This is one of the main reasons for presenters giving very bad presentations, as they use the slides of their presentation is a substitute script. Without it, they fear, they will not be able to remember what they are to say.

A strong solution is to have a set of keywords available to you.  You should avoid a script as this will inevitably sound artificial to your audience.

Keywords can be jotted down in large letters on notes in front of you, or perhaps on index cards that you keep in your hand. A more professional approach however, is to use something called ‘Presenter View’.  This is a way of setting up your laptop so that what you see is different from what the audience sees: the exact way of doing this varies, depending on what software you are using and which version of the software but the help facility will point you in the right direction.

Having the facility to see things that your audience can’t is that you can keep your keywords and so on visible to you on your laptop, associated with each slide, but hidden from your audience.

Personality types

Audience members and presenters all have different personalities and it’s important to understand how these can impact upon how you present and how your audience’s respond to information in your presentations.

One of the most useful tools for understanding differences in personality types is to use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). There is a more subtle and sophisticated Step 2 version of this tool for when you need to understand your personality, its strengths and its weaknesses but for now, a simple understanding of the more widely know Step 1 version of the tool is all that is required.

The MBTI tool characterises personalities into one of 16 categories, based upon the interaction of four binary alternatives. The key one of these is the second - how people perceive the world around them and the jargon terms used for the two alternatives is ‘Sensing’ and ‘iNtuitive’.

People who have a Sensing preference tend to build up from detail to the big picture (all other things being equal) and people who have an iNtuitive preference tend to look first at the big picture, moving to looking at detail later (if at all). It’s important to understand however, that these are simply instinctive preferences and cannot predict behaviours of individual people at individual moments!

The additional material for this course gives you links to far more detailed information about personality type: however, what is important at this stage is to understand that unless you, as a presenter, take active steps to prevent it, you will tend to design and deliver your presentation in the style which most suits your personality.

If this is not a style which suits your audience, your chances of being perceived as giving a good presentation will be reduced. If you intend to give many presentations (or indeed if you simply wish to be better able to understand and communicate with people in general) you should consider contacting an accredited MBTI Step 2 practitioner.

There are two key points to consider here. Firstly, you should know and understand your own style, so that you do not ‘retreat’ to it in moments of stress - potentially further alienating your audience - and secondlyFree Articles, you should design your presentation to appeal to both alternatives.  The best way to do this is usually to give an overview (appealing to the iNtuitives in your audience) before giving the details to back it up (for the Sensors) or at least assuring the Sensors where the details can be found (eg: in a PDF to download).

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Dr Simon Raybould is the author of a book on voice (The Little Big Voice) and an ebook on business presentations 

His company - Curved Vision - does really good presentation skills training in the UK .....

..... with fantastic results!

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